It was St. Anne’s vs. Northminster sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I think we were Bantams but maybe major Pee-Wees. They were a good team all year but we were better. Coaches Ed and Brian made sure we knew it. For a team that was just a bunch of house league kids, I think they had us playing with a bit of a swagger.
Still, when the puck dropped at the beginning of the two out of three final, the season to that point meant nothing. I remember the game well though. I don’t remember many other games that far ago but I do remember this one. We lead 3-0 early, coasted to a 5-1 win and beat them two straight.
It’s a very long time since I’ve experienced the sensation of preparing for play-off’s as a kid. February makes me think of play-off’s in those years. As a kid, we had great play-off formats in house league. These varied across the years but there were several years where we played two out of three series in the semi’s and final’s. It was just like the NHL except we were 10 and it was house-league. We also had two games total goals which weren’t as good but at least you had a second chance if your first go was just a bad night.
There was an excitement that built up during the day at school if I had a playoff game that night. I used to get really nervous before play-off games in a way that I didn’t for the regular season contests. It was always a fun-nervous though – just a little more on the line and a little more exciting as a result. I always wanted to get to the rink a little earlier, and I was really enjoyed the increased level of competition. I was never a physical player but I always wanted to win. Still like it in fact. That’s why we keep score right?
I don’t agree with these movements in minor sports today that are suggesting we shouldn’t count goals until kids are 12 or something like that. I think it’s ridiculous. Winning is fun and important. Losing isn’t fun but learning how to lose graciously is an important life skill. All this blather about kids needing to develop skills instead being more important is bunk. Learning to win is a skill. Life is competitive and competition can be rewarding. Being a member of a team that wins a championship (yes, that means all the other teams didn’t win) is one of life’s great experiences. Watching the other clowns carry the trophy around when you lose is really depressing but oh what a motivator for next year.
Play-off’s baby, that’s what February was all about. And if you were still playing in March, well…..you done good.
A friend /neighbour who has a son the same age as mine, once remarked after our boys’ house-league hockey team won their league championship, that it was a really wonderful thing to be part of a winning team because many kids play sports for years and never get that experience. Couldn’t agree more.
I don’t remember the endings to seasons where we didn’t win the championship but I do remember those where we did win a house league title. Three in fact and like much of my other old hockey glitter, I stuffed it all in a bag and kept it.
The badges below represent wins in for St. Anne’s teams in Peterborough’s church league. The first badge was from a team coached by Bob Hickey and Jerry Strickland and was the only year I ever played defence for an entire season. (My goalie-mates in the WOHL still don’t buy that I ever played defence anywhere, ever). The latter two were won with Ed and Brian at the helm.
I’ve posted other bits about coaches Ed and Brian. Here’s a picture I found recently of a Peterborough house league team from some time in the mid 70’s. This was take at Northcrest Arena in Peterborough and it looks like there was still wire screen at the ends of the rink where today all rinks have glass. Great coaches, great fun.
I dredged up this old button from a bag in the basement of old hockey stuff I’ve kept forever. I remember playing in a couple of tournaments in the Keene Arena as a house-leaguer. Great times. Otonabee Township is just south of the Peterborough City limits and where my ancestors settled way, way back in the early 1800’s. You know, when the winters started in late August, lasted until May and the pucks kids used to play hockey on frozen ponds with were just a frozen horse turd.
Did you ever make a tape ball? I’m not sure if the tape ball is a sporting artifact unique to hockey but I cannot think of any others that could actually produce such a thing. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, hockey players wrap tape around their shins and sometimes ankles to keep all the lower gear in place. Some guys use a lot of this. It used to be that white tape was the primary source for this (it certainly was for my tape ball) but in later years, the clear plastic stuff became the mainstay and still is. After the game, you strip the tape off and throw it away – or you wrap into a ball. Once the ball is created, you simply keep wrapping your old tape around the outside of the ball after every game or practice.
I had a tape ball when I was a kid. Not sure when I started it but I’m guessing it was around Pee-Wee. We won a house-league championship in there somewhere and I had everyone on the team sign it at the end of that season. However, when the next season rolled around, I just taped over those signatures and kept going. So much for the nostalgia of a band of house-league brothers.
I kept building it through my remaining house-league and high school years but these suckers get pretty heavy after awhile. I think mine was about six inches in diameter when I stopped adding to it and I’m guessing was 5-10 pounds, big enough that I could feel the extra weight in my bag weighing heavily on my shoulder. Given that we used to have to walk 10-15 minutes to the rink at University for intramural games, I suspect this is the point in time where I started leaving it out of my bag.
Once left out of the bag, it was the beginning of the end for the tape ball because left behind, it quits growing and then one has to ask “what’s the point of having one?” (Although I guess one could ask that question about a tape ball at any time theoretically couldn’t they?)
Here’s a story that’s both funny and sad. When I was a kid, (I think I was around Pee-Wee age), there was a guy on my church league team who was by far the weakest on the team. A bit of a loner too outside of hockey. Anyway, he shows up early in the season with a stick that Zdeno Chara would have had to take a few inches off the top of, and this kid is no Chara. Our coach is just flummoxed. What do you say to this as a coach?
Anyway, the coach finally collects himself and says to the kid as nicely as he can, “Your stick is too long, you need to cut the shaft down” or words to that effect. The kid says “I can’t. It’s my dad’s stick.”